Council applies for grants for city center project

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2003

Building off Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital's plans to move 50 jobs to the Ironton City Center, city council approved the grant applications for the funding needed to finance the project.

Council approved, in a 5-1 vote Thursday, applications for $473,000 through four grant programs administered by the Ohio Department of Development. These funds would be used to develop the top floor of the city building and make downtown parking improvements.

Councilman John Elam cast the dissenting vote because he said he is unfamiliar with city's current Downtown Revitalization plan that is referenced in the resolution authorizing the applications. Councilman Jim Tordiff was absent.

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If the grants are approved, the city could conceivably move forward with the projects as early as late July or August, said Ralph Kline, Community Development Director for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, which prepared the applications.

"I am pretty optimistic about the applications," he said. "Until you have the grant agreements, you are not 100 percent assured. But, from the preliminary discussions, we should be in the funding ranges."

The city applied for a total of $63,000 in Community Development Block Grants Formula funds - it was split as $50,600 for municipal parking improvements in downtown, $3,000 to continue the fair housing program that the city administers with the county and $9,400 for administrative costs tied to paying for bid ads, environmental reviews and the procurement of the grant funds.

Each year, the city applies for the CDBG Formula allocations. Last year, the city used approximately $60,000 toward construction of the new fire station.

The parking improvements are not necessarily tied to the Bellefonte announcement and are more of a downtown revitalization project, Kline said. Mayor Bob Cleary said he would like to expand parking to the area behind the City Center, but has other alternatives if the property is too expensive.

The city filed applications for $260,000 in CDBG Economic Development Discretionary funds. Approximately $250,000 would be used for the development of the top floor of the city center, with the remaining $10,000 used for administration costs.

Council also approved applications for $50,000 through the State 412 Grant program and $100,000 through the Governor's Office of Appalachia grant program. These funds would be used to purchase and install the microwave communications system in the City Center.

Renovations to the building are projected to cost approximately $340,000 to develop the office space, $212,000 for the communications system and $250,000 for parking renovations downtown.

The hospital plans to be in the building by the end of the year. The city will foot the bill for the majority of the development, but the hospital will pay a gradually increasing rent payment during the eight-year lease and five-year extension.